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Season in Review: June

On June 15, the ‘Riders celebrated clinching a spot in the playoffs for the seventh time in ten seasons. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders.

JUNE

Record: 11-16 (6th of 8 TL teams)

Average: .244 (6th)

Home Runs: 26 (2nd)

ERA: 5.20 (8th)

Top Offensive Players: Mike Olt (.325-10-24, 3 2B, 17 R, .438/.738/1.175), Chris McGuiness (.274-8-16, 5 2B, 14 R, .365/.619/.984), Jose Felix (.294-3-9, 2 2B, 5 R), Jurickson Profar (.290-2-12, 4 2B, 3B, 15 R, 2-3 SB)

Top Pitchers: Ryan Rodebaugh (8 G, 1-1, 0.69 ERA, 1-1 SV, 13 IP, 7 H, 18 K, 1.08 WHIP, .159 BAA), Carlos Pimentel (7 G, 1 GS, 2-0, 1.88 ERA, 14.1 IP, 10 H, 17 K, .204 BAA), Joseph Ortiz (9 G, 1-1, 2.79 ERA, 1-2 SV, 9.2 IP ,7 H, 0.93 WHIP, .200 BAA), Justin Grimm (2 GS, 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 14 IP, 11 H, 10 K, 2 BB, 0.93 WHIP, .216 BAA)

June was a month to remember and a month to forget at the same time for the Frisco nine.  On one hand, the ’Riders experienced the high of clinching a spot in the postseason, an extreme power surge by Mike Olt, a direct promotion to the big leagues of Justin Grimm and the sight of a former Major League All-Star wearing a Frisco uniform.  On the other hand, however, the team’s 11-16 record was by far its worst of the season and Steve Buechele’s club was hurt by sudden roster turnover, a sluggish offense and underwhelming pitching.

Roy Oswalt started on June 12 for the ‘Riders in a game that lasted nearly five hours. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

No doubt about it, June was eventful for reasons both good and bad.  To paraphrase Buechele, it was evident that the RoughRiders, after two months of stellar play, were coming back to the pack as many players were forced to make their first true adjustments since joining the Texas League.  The letdown factor after securing a playoff spot was evident and the relative inexperience of the team allowed the funk to permeate longer than it probably should have.

Still, the ’Riders were in an enviable position after finishing the first half with the best record in the Texas League.   Frisco and Tulsa earned the right to play a little more relaxed in the second half, knowing that they were the only two teams guaranteed to keep playing after Labor Day.

TIMELINE:

June 1: After ripping off ten straight wins to begin the season, Barret Loux gets his first no-decision of the year.  He and future 2012 big leaguer Edwar Cabrera of Tulsa pitched to a 3-3 stalemate before Ryan Strausborger sent Frisco to a 4-3 walk-off victory with an RBI single in the ninth inning.  The win secured the ’Riders’ first series sweep of the season.  In the game, Mike Olt goes 3-for-4 with two home runs, three RBI and three runs scored.

June 2: Frisco loses 10-5 to Northwest Arkansas in ten innings after the Naturals victimize Wilfredo Boscan and Zach Osborne in the extra frame.  Olt goes 3-for-3 with two more home runs, four RBI and two walks while Jurickson Profar extends his on-base streak to 50 straight games with a single and a walk.

June 3: In a 10-3 loss to the Naturals, Olt makes it three straight games with two home runs with a pair of solo shots.  In this three-game stretch, he increases his season homer total from 11 to 17, the most in the Texas League.  Over his last 11 games, Olt is hitting .489 with eight home runs and 19 RBI.  In the same game, Profar goes 0-for-4 and fails to reach base for the first time since April 6 (the second game of the season), ending his 50-game on-base streak.  The streak would endure as the longest of its kind in Major or Minor League Baseball in 2012.

June 4: Profar is honored by the Texas League as its “TOPPS Player of the Month” for May while Olt is named the TL “Player of the Week” for his recent offensive heroics.  That night, Frisco is swept for the first time this season in a 3-1 loss to Northwest Arkansas.  In a reminder of the tenuous nature of the profession, ’Riders reliever Corey Young is released by the Rangers organization.  Two days later, bullpen-mate Trevor Hurley is released as well.

June 8:The RoughRiders rebound from getting swept by winning their third in a row at San Antonio by a 5-2 final score.  Zach Zaneski goes 2-for-4 with his first career triple to extend his season-best hitting streak to 14 games and raise his batting average to .346 (it was .188 through his first nine games).  The triple was Frisco’s 32nd of the season, the most by any team in professional baseball.  The win shrinks the ’Riders’ magic number for a playoff berth to seven.

Legendary pitcher Greg Maddux and Zach Zaneski share a moment during one of Maddux’s visits to Frisco this season. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

June 11: The Rangers name Olt their “Minor League Player of the Month” for May, but the night belongs to fellow corner infielder Chris McGuiness, who hits a grand slam in a 10-1 win over Midland.  McGuiness had just hit a three-run home run the night before.  The offense supports a dazzling Chad Bell (6.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K), whose performance was personally observed by pitching great and Rangers special assistant to the general manager Greg Maddux.  The future Hall of Famer calls Bell’s performance one of the greatest he has ever witnessed by a Minor Leaguer.

June 12: Roy Oswalt, recently signed by Texas, continues his road back to the big leagues with a start for the RoughRiders against the RockHounds.  Oswalt (3.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, BB, 3 K, WP) looks rusty, but so do both teams’ bats as the game progresses.  The contest goes 14 innings before Jose Felix wins it with a walk-off single to send Frisco to a 5-4 victory.  The four-hour, 47-minute affair ends nine minutes before midnight and is easily the longest game of the season.  Complicating matters, the two teams must play an 11 a.m. game the next day.  Midland easily wins that game 10-2.

June 14: On the day the All-Star Game rosters are announced, Justin Grimm is shocked to learn that he will be promoted directly to the Rangers in two days and make his Major League debut in a start against the Astros.  That night, Frisco beats Corpus Christi 4-3 to whittle its magic number to one with five games remaining in the first half.

June 15: Ryan Strausborger’s RBI fielder’s choice in the eighth inning snaps a tie game and the ’Riders win 3-2 over the Hooks to clinch a spot in the Texas League playoffs for the seventh time in ten years.  Nick Tepesch, just promoted to take Grimm’s recently vacated spot in the rotation, allows just two runs over seven innings in his Double-A debut.

June 16: While the ’Riders meekly fall to Jose Cisnero (two-hit complete game shutout) and the Hooks 5-0, Grimm wins in his first-ever big league game down the road in Arlington.  Playing in front of a sellout crowd that includes former President George W. Bush, Frisco’s Opening Day starter allows three runs on six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts over six innings as the Rangers beat Houston 8-3.

June 17: Facing a shortage of pitching, Steve Buechele is forced to turn to a pair of position players to pitch the 11th inning against Corpus Christi.  With the game tied at five, outfielder Val Majewski and infielder Guilder Rodriguez combine to allow nine runs on eight hits, a walk and a hit batter.  The Hooks prevail 14-5.

June 19: Frisco beats Midland 5-1 to finish the first half with a 41-29 record, the best mark in the TL.  The ’Riders benefit from six RockHounds errors and a good game from Majewski (2-for-4, double, RBI) on his 31st birthday.  Brad Hawpe, who played the first two months of the season for Frisco while recovering from elbow surgery, requests and his granted his release by the Rangers.

Fortunately, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar are better hitters than they are dancers. Both had big months in June. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

June 21: Over a three-day period, the ’Riders experience a flurry of roster moves.  Gone from the active roster are: LHP Bell (promoted to Round Rock), RHP Fabio Castillo (disabled list), LHP Tim Murphy (disabled list), LHP Joseph Ortiz (Round Rock) and IF Rodriguez (Round Rock).  Frisco receives: LHP Richard Bleier (off the disabled list), RHP Cody Buckel (up from Myrtle Beach), OF Jared Hoying (Myrtle Beach), RHP Neil Ramirez (down from Round Rock) and RHP Ross Wolf (Round Rock).

June 22: Corpus Christi thumps Frisco 13-7 despite three solo home runs from McGuiness, a new career-high.  After getting hit hard in a no-decision by the Hooks in his last outing, Loux (3+ IP, 8 H, 9 R, 8 ER, BB, 4 K, BK) cannot escape his first loss of the season this time.  It is his first defeat in exactly 11 months; he last lost in 2011 to Frederick while pitching in the Carolina League.  Buechele is ejected for the only time all season in the middle of the third inning while Profar is tossed in the ninth.

June 24: The ’Riders lose their season-high fourth straight game in a 3-2 defeat to the Hooks.  In a matchup of terrific pitching prospects, Corpus Christi’s Jarred Cosart (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, K) outduels Buckel (4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K), who is making his first Double-A start.

June 25: Ramirez (6 IP, 2 H, R, 3 BB, 6 K) makes his first start since coming down from Triple-A Round Rock and looks sharp in a 4-1 ’Riders victory over the Hooks.  The result takes Frisco into the All-Star break on a winning note.

June 28: The North Division bests the South 3-1 in the Texas League All-Star Game at Tulsa’s ONEOK Field.  Nine Frisco players were named to the South Division team: Bell, Engel Beltre, Jake Brigham, Grimm, Loux, Olt, Carlos Pimentel, Profar and Zaneski.

June 30: The ’Riders look listless in Springfield, losing their second straight game 11-6.  Tepesch and Miguel De Los Santos combine to allow five home runs in the route.

Coming tomorrow: A look back at the month of July.

-          Alex V.

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